Grand Theft Auto Online Review – Mayhem for the Masses

If you’re anything like our staff member Mike, you once dreamed about the possibility of playing Grand Theft Auto together with all your friends, leaving behind trails of destruction, each explosion bringing you all that much closer. Whether it’s disobeying the traffic laws or skydiving onto a strip club with your pals, it always seemed like a distant and unlikely prospect. Well, the dream is real; the future is now. Grand Theft Auto Online has arrived, and it’s probably everything you dreamed of and more.

While GTA Online got off to a rocky start, due to technical issues due in part to the sheer enormity of people attempting to log on all at once, the majority of its issues have dissipated and the game has been allowed to flourish and show the world everything it has to offer. Naturally, the first thing you will be doing is creating your own character. Rather than simply selecting what eyebrows or nose to place on your character’s face, GTA Online has you selecting your parents and grandparents to alter your character’s features accordingly. It’s unorthodox, but it works in the sense that the chances of you encountering someone with the same exact physical traits are slim to none, making everyone’s different characters feel refreshingly unique.

Just some friends hanging out. You know. The usual.

Just some friends hanging out. You know. The usual.

The game’s mechanics are nearly identical to that of Grand Theft Auto V, which feel expertly crafted like the Michelangelo’s David of video games. Unfortunately, the only thing you can’t do is that ridiculous, but awesome, maneuver where you can just throw yourself forward like you gave up at the beginning of a front flip. Aside from that, movement, shooting, driving, flying, whatever feels just as fluid as it does in GTA V. Adding a dash of online play takes nothing away from the basic GTA experience, and it’s much better for that. Still, it might find a qualm or two with this new way of playing, in the beginning.

Some of the greatest things about GTA V are the characters you play as, and watching them respond to the world around them. Since this is an online game, your character is mute, and loses a good amount of personality which may catch you off guard after playing the single-player. At first, it’s easy to miss those specific interactions, but then it makes the game all that much more immersive when you’re the one doing the responding through a mic. You play GTA Online to play and talk with other people and it’s important to remember that, although you’ll probably have already forgotten that you have a mute character once you’ve been on a ton of jet ski races and robbed convenience stores with your friends anyway. Plus, you’ll be encountering a good number of characters from GTA V as Online‘s events take place before the events of V, so you won’t have to miss the single-player’s script-writing very much.

Our own Alissa left this destruction in her wake without uttering a word.

Our own Alissa left this destruction in her wake without uttering a word.

As per the rules of pies, it’s not always about just about how delicious the crust is; it’s about what’s inside. The jobs are the delicious filling inside of this GTA Online pie. Whether you’re with friends or strangers, there’s a huge list of jobs to carry out online, including races, deathmatches, missions, and survival events. Each job has enough customizable features, such as allowing weapons or changing the climate in races, to help your ventures continue to feel fresh. While there is room for fair and chaotic races, the difficulty is usually very well balanced letting skill take precedence over blind luck. Similarly, deathmatches and missions are also at a fair difficulty most of the time. Just once, I encountered a mission that was too difficult to possibly complete. The mission required us to climb up tens of stories via ladders (which took a good while) and dispatch a number of enemies with no cover to hide behind; the odds were extremely against us. In the event that you encounter a seemingly poorly-designed job, you can always either “Like” or “Dislike” the job when it’s over to let others know which ones are best.

Roaming about the open world can also be much more of a task in itself in GTA Online. The police AI has been given the ability to detect when you’re driving around in a stolen vehicle, and it adds an annoying, but fair and understandable, challenge to the game. Therefore, it becomes recommended that you ride around in your own personal vehicle, which you’ll be wanting to do anyway, so long as you give it bitchin’ modifications. Owning your own apartment is also a nice treat, and could serve as a nice, passive area for you and friends or strangers to just hang out, watch the in-game television or smoke or drink, but it might get a bit boring quickly. Nevertheless, it’s pretty relaxing when you’d like to avoid the dangers of being in a world with up to 15 other lunatics like you for a while. Although you can always turn on Passive Mode to carry out your errands without the fear of being pumped full of lead or flattened by someone’s vehicle while you innocently trot on over to an ATM machine. If you’re on foot, be wary. I will run you over for no reason whatsoever.

Tell me. Do I look merciful to you?

Tell me. Do I look merciful to you?

Even when you’re out and about on the street, bounties, one-on-one deathmatches, and impromptu races bring enough depth and possibilities to the game’s open world. Go ahead, steal some helicopters and joust with them miles above Los Santos. I did, and it was awesome.

In fact, fellow Twinfiknight Alissa and I got up to no good and caused quite a calamity of our own as we raced through the city on a killing spree with police helicopters and cars chasing after our dastardly asses for a good while. Just as well, I encountered another Twinfiknight Devoun on the road. I kicked him out of my car and stabbed him to death. Nothing personal, but I had to leave the game and that seemed like a nice way of saying “Good-bye, friend, let’s play again sometime.”

In terms of presentation, Grand Theft Auto Online looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, your character’s face will have relatively low-quality textures, which really shows when compared to the exquisite character models of protagonists Trevor, Michael, and Franklin in GTA V. Moreover, if you’re hoping for the same great radio feature to be present, you’re in luck. A sweet detail: the radio is shared among everyone in the session, so if you dig a song, feel free to phone someone else in the session to let them know to switch to that radio station, and they’ll be hearing the same song at the same time. I was just so fascinated by that. One evening, my friends and I set up two Xbox 360s, hooked them both up online in the same session, and got two televisions blaring Queen’s Radio GaGa simultaneously while we sped up and over the hills of Blaine County.

If you look closely, I bet you'll see a handful of pedestrians being pummeled by cars.

If you look closely, I bet you’ll see a handful of pedestrians being pummeled by cars.

At the retail price of $60, GTA Online and GTA V on one disc is a fabulous value and, quite frankly, a steal. For the sheer enormity of content in both games, it’s one of the best video game deals ever conceived. Also, Rockstar has made plans to include even more content in the coming months. While microtransactions will be available, you can still experience and purchase everything GTA Online has to offer by earning it all yourself, at a generous rate compared to most massive multi-player online games, I might add.

Grand Theft Auto Online is ambitious, malicious, and, under the right circumstances, riotous. When the game’s concepts were first unveiled, the world was skeptical; it all seemed too good to be true. Fortunately, it’s just as great as it strove to be. It is primarily a elegantly-crafted online experience ripe with the delightful mayhem people have come to expect from a Grand Theft Auto title. For now, there may be a few little technical kinks to work out as the servers continue to accommodate the millions of players, but at its fully-functional prime, Grand Theft Auto Online brings the GTA experience online with such finesse and precision that it feels like something of a dream come true.

Final Breakdown

[+Rock solid mechanics][+Lovely presentation][+Tons of different jobs to play continuously unlock as you rank up][+Deep customization][+Robust balance and challenge][+Free with GTA V][+Marvelously fun to cause havoc with friends or Crew][+Earning money isn’t difficult without microtransactions][+Top Fun][-Still some technical wrinkles to iron out][-Low quality avatar model textures]

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